Applying for Social Security disability is a thorough process and there are a number of steps you must take to give yourself the best chance of being approved for benefits. But because the process is detailed, there are also a number of reasons why you might be denied.
The good news is that if you are denied, you do have the right to appeal your decision. You can start this process by filing what is known as a “reconsideration appeal” either online or at your local Social Security office.
You have 65 days from the time of your initial denial to start the appeal process. To do so, you must submit a Request for Reconsideration, Form SSA 561, an Appeal Disability Report, Form SSA 3441 and a Medical Release, Form SSA 827.
Social Security will forward these forms to your particular state disability agency, most times known as Disability Determination Services, or DDS, although each state may have a slightly different name for their agency.
DDS will follow pretty much the same process used as when you submitted your initial claim, reviewing your medical records and history, your work history, supporting documents and other related materials. The bottom line goal is to determine whether or not an applicant is able to return to work in some form or fashion.
A decision on reconsideration appeals generally takes place much quicker than an initial claim, because all the pertinent records have already been gathered. Those who appeal are ensured a degree of fairness because a different examiner will handle the reconsideration.
To improve chances for approval, an applicant should make the case that an error was made in the initial claim submittal, or submit new and significant medical evidence that will support the reconsideration appeal. Otherwise, because the same criteria are used during reconsideration as with an initial application, the chances for approval are generally low.
If your reconsideration is denied, you can then request a hearing in front of an administrative law judge. To do so, you must submit a Hearing Appeal Request, Form SSA 501 and an Appeal Disability Report, Form SSA 3441.
It will take several weeks to schedule your hearing, and when it takes place, you will actually appear in front of a judge. Some who appeal are represented by an attorney, but many times the judge will direct questions to the claimant. Prior to the hearing, most judges will already be familiar with your case because they have reviewed case materials, so expect that the questions will be targeted and informed.
If your case is denied at this level, you have one more option left, which is to file an appeal to an Appeals Council which reviews administrative law judge’s decisions. At this point, your appeal will either be denied, sent back to the judge for an additional review, or you will be approved for disability benefits.